Identifying cortical areas that underlie the transformation from 2D retinal to 3D head-centric motion signals

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Accurate motion perception requires that the visual system integrate the 2D retinal motion signals received by the two eyes into a single representation of 3D motion. However, most experimental paradigms present the same stimulus to the two eyes, signaling motion limited to a 2D fronto-parallel plane. Such paradigms are unable to dissociate the representation of 3D head-centric motion signals (i.e., 3D object motion relative to the observer) from the associated 2D retinal motion signals. Here, we used stereoscopic displays to present separate motion signals to the two eyes and examined their representation in visual cortex using fMRI. Specifically, we presented random-dot motion stimuli that specified various 3D head-centric motion directions. We also presented control stimuli, which matched the motion energy of the retinal signals, but were inconsistent with any 3D motion direction. We decoded motion direction from BOLD activity using a probabilistic decoding algorithm. We found that 3D motion direction signals can be reliably decoded in three major clusters in the human visual system. Critically, in early visual cortex (V1-V3), we found no significant difference in decoding performance between stimuli specifying 3D motion directions and the control stimuli, suggesting that these areas represent the 2D retinal motion signals, rather than 3D head-centric motion itself. In voxels in and surrounding hMT and IPS0 however, decoding performance was consistently superior for stimuli that specified 3D motion directions compared to control stimuli. Our results reveal the parts of the visual processing hierarchy that are critical for the transformation of retinal into 3D head-centric motion signals and suggest a role for IPS0 in their representation, in addition to its sensitivity to 3D object structure and static depth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number119909
StatePublished - Apr 15 2023


  • Binocular vision
  • Motion perception
  • Sensory mechanisms
  • Stereoscopic displays
  • Visual system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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